Cass County man sentenced to life without parole in grisly 2018 double murder

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LINDEN, Texas–A Cass County man was convicted of capital murder Thursday and sentenced to life without parole for killing two people in 2018 before burning their bodies in a trash pit.

Kevin Dewayne Shepard Jr., 30, killed Donnie Combs and Cynthia Arnold on rural property in Cass County sometime after they were last seen Sept. 25, 2018. The case went cold until an eyewitness came forward in July 2019, according to a press release issued by Cass County District Attorney Courtney Shelton.

The witness provided a disturbing account at the three-day trial held before 5th District Judge Bill Miller, according to the release.

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“That eyewitness testified on Tuesday and stated that sometime in late September 2018 she was introduced to Kevin Shepard by a mutual friend. She was not from east Texas and was unfamiliar with the area. Shepard took her to a trailer with no electricity and no running water where she admitted they smoked meth. She was unable to state how long they stayed on the property, but believed it to be about a week,” the press release states.

The witness testified that she met Combs and Arnold a couple of times while there.

“The second time they were there, Combs was outside shooting guns with Shepard near a fire in a trash pit,” according to the release.

Arnold laid down in her truck to rest while the witness took a seat in a chair nearby.

“She testified that Shepard said ‘watch this’ and shot Arnold in the head,” the press release states.

After killing Arnold, Shepard told Combs, “I got something for you too,” before killing him.

“The witness testified that Shepard then left again and came back dragging a rolled up carpet, where she could see the boots of a person hanging out the end. Shepard threw him in a fire pit, which she described as very large. Shepard then dragged Arnold out of the truck into a wheelbarrow and wheeled the wheelbarrow with Arnold’s body into the fire pit,” the press release states.

Shepard threw tires and trash in the fire pit and burned the bodies.

‘The witness stated at one pint Shepard asked her to get in the pit with him to make sure there were no bones or teeth remaining, but she refused. At some point, Shepard made her follow him in his car to a county road some distance away where he set Arnold’s truck on fire,” the release states.

The burned truck was later found on a county road in Marion County.

Members of the FBI’s evidence recovery team performed digging and sifting at the fire pit site in 2020 at the request of the Cass County D.A.’s office. Forensic testing performed at the FBI’s lab in Quantico, Virginia, determined that four bones recovered from the site were human while several others were consistent with human bones, though the evidence was damaged by fire.

“We are extremely grateful to the Cass County Sheriff’s Office, Marion County Sheriff’s Office, Texas Rangers, Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Texas Department of Public Safety for their assistance in this investigation, and to the Texas Attorney General’s Office for their assistance in the prosecution,” Shelton said.

Special Prosecutors Geoff Barr and Aurora Perez with the Texas Attorney General’s Office represented the state at trial. Shepard was represented by Texarkana lawyer Butch Dunbar.

“But what I am especially proud of is the strength and courage of our eyewitness who finally came forward and was able to give the Arnold and Combs families the closure they deserved,” Shelton said. “Kevin Shepard committed a heinous crime in our county, and I am grateful that the jury could see the truth and did not reward him for attempting to destroy the evidence.”

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